Monday, October 11, 2010
Missing a Step
I used to hate my step-dad.
No matter what we did or how well it was done, it was never good enough.
When we were hurt, "Walk it off.", was his only reaction.
After we'd get whooped, "Boys don't cry.", is all that he'd say.
When we were tired, "Suck it up." or "Man up." were the most common words spoken.
I thought my dad was the meanest guy in the world.
I used to envy the boys who were raised by pampering mothers.
I used to envy those boys as they were given things for which I had to work.
I used to envy the coddled boys who never knew fear, shame, disappointment.
I used to envy those boys whose mothers always fixed their mistakes.
I used to envy those boys who were told that they were doing well, looked good, were smart, ... even though I never received any praise even though I was doing better.
I used to envy the confidence these boys had even though many just sucked.
But as I got older, I realized that these boys had no heart.
These boys were bullies until someone would actually fight back.
These boys did well when things were going well but they would often quit when things got rough.
These boys knew all the answers as long as someone was there to give them to them.
These boys were so fixated with looks that performance often took a back seat to appearance.
These boys were so fixated with looking strong because few really felt strong.
These boys were not to grow up to become men because many of them were too easily led by others who were better at imitating manhood.
I'm not saying that a single mother cannot raise a boy to become a man.
Only that the mother must ignore her instinct to coddle and shelter.
The mother must let the boy fail until he no longer fears failure.
The mother must encourage success to the point that the boy expects to succeed.
The mother must give praise when praise is due and punish when punishment is due.
The mother must be honest with her boy.
She should never tell him that he's done well even though she knows that he hasn't.
(But she should correct the boy's mistakes and teach him a better way to do things.)
A single mother must think like a man.
These days, most boys are soft, pampered, scrubs.
Many have inflated egos without ever having accomplished anything.
Most expect the same praise one would expect to give a three year old who finally learned to tie his own shoes whenever they've done something just as rudimentary.
"I take out the trash and clean my room.", a teenaged boy said after I told him that he was lazy.
Those are things that a five year old should be expected to do without praise, and this kid thought that he was actually doing something to be proud of?
Whatever happened to the rites of passage?
Why are so many men still trying to prove their manhood years after the expected time?
This is why so many boys play sports, join the Boy Scouts or join gangs.
Many are looking for discipline, structure and guidance.
If this is not provided in the home a boy will look for it wherever he can find it.
Back in the day we had unwritten rites.
Ones first fight won.
Ones first fight lost.
Ones first kiss.
Ones first (well, you know.)
And the list goes on..
All of these led up to the ultimate measure of manhood - respect from ones father.
When a boy was finally able to disagree with his father and his father listened instead of getting mad - the boy had become a man.
These days, I'm just as 'mean' to my young cousins as my father was to me.
I have no need to raise my voice when speaking to my young cousins.
They know that what I'm saying is something they need to hear.
They know that I'm trying to give them ways to win battles they will eventually have to fight instead of teaching them to hide or run from such battles.
They know that when they do well it is just something I expect from them.
That I will not tell them that they've done well when I know that they could have done better.
They know that I won't make excuses like, "That's okay a lot of people do/are/don't...', like their mothers or grandmothers do.
They know that I expect these boys to eventually become men.